Harry felt a powerful jerk behind his navel, the ground vanished from beneath his feet, his hand was glued to the kettle; he was banging into the others as they all sped forwards in a swirl of colours and a rush of wind, the kettle pulling them onwards . . . until his feet hit the ground so hard his knees buckled, the kettle clattered to the ground, and somewhere close at hand a voice said:
Everyone but Harry spent the rest of the morning sleeping. He went up to the bedroom he and Ron had shared over the last few weeks of summer, but while Ron crawled into bed and was asleep within minutes, Harry sat fully clothed, hunched against the cold metal bars of the bedstead, keeping himself deliberately uncomfortable, determined not to fall into a doze, terrified that he might become the serpent again in his sleep and wake to find that he had attacked Ron, or else slithered through the house after one of the others . . .
That will be a job for Fawkes when he has finished keeping a lookout for anybody approaching,' said Dumbledore. 'But she may already know . . . that excellent clock of hers . . .'
At once, Harry's scar burned white-hot, as though the old wound had burst open again - and unbidden, unwanted, but terrifyingly strong, there rose within Harry a hatred so powerful he felt, for that instant, he would like nothing better than to strike - to bite - to sink his fangs into the man before him - '
Thank you,' said Mrs Weasley. 'Come on, you lot.'
'Thank you,' said Dumbledore. He looked round at Professor McGonagall.
'. . . they searched the whole area taut couldn't find the snake anywhere. It just seems to have vanished after it attacked you, Arthur . . . but You-Know-Who can't have expected a snake to get in, can he?'
The little colour remaining in Sirius's face drained from it. He looked for a moment as though he would quite like to hit Fred, but when he spoke, it was in a voice of determined calm.
Fred and George still looked mutinous. Ginny, however, took a few steps over to the nearest chair and sank into it. Harry looked at Ron, who made a funny movement somewhere between a nod and a shrug, and they sat down too. The twins glared at Sirius for another minute, then took seats either side of Ginny.
He raised his wand as he spoke and half a dozen bottles came flying towards them out of the pantry, skidded along the table, scattering the debris of Sirius's meal, and stopped neatly in front of t le six of them. They all drank, and for a while the only sounds were those of the crackling of the kitchen fire and the soft thud of their bottles on the table.
'But Mr Weasley could be anywhere!' said Harry.
'Did I say that?' said Phineas Nigellus, idly examining his silk gloves. 'Now, if you will excuse me, I have better things to do than listen to adolescent agonising . . . good-day to you.'
Harry hurried over to the stove to help. He did not want to intrude on the Weasleys' happiness and he dreaded the moment when Mrs Weasley would ask him to recount his vision. However, he had barely taken plates from the dresser when Mrs Weasley lifted them out of his hands and pulled him into a hug.
'Is it in the Prophet, you being attacked?' asked Fred, indicating the newspaper Mr Weasley had cast aside.
The man has red hair and glasses,' said Dumbledore. 'Everard, you will need to raise the alarm, make sure he is found by the right people - '
Harry was only drinking to have something to do with his hands. His stomach was full of horrible hot, bubbling guilt. They would not be here if it were not for him; they would all still be asleep in bed. And it was no good telling himself that by raising the alarm he had ensured that Mr Weasley was found, because there was also the inescapable business of it being he who had attacked Mr Weasley in the first place.
'Oh, very well,' said the wizard called Phineas, eyeing the wand with mild apprehension, 'though he may well have destroyed my picture by now, he's done away with most of the family - '
That's enough,' said Mrs Weasley crossly. 'Mad-Eye and Tonks are outside, Arthur, they want to come and see you. And you lot can wait outside,' she added to her children and Harry. 'You can come and say goodbye afterwards. Go on.'
'So, you going to tell us what happened, Dad?' asked Fred, pulling his chair closer to the bed.